Large asteroid will pass Earth on March 21: NASA

Image from a NASA brochure of an asteroid

Image from a NASA brochure of an asteroid

The largest asteroid to pass Earth this year will approach about 1.25 million miles (two million kilometers) from our planet on March 21, NASA said Thursday.

The US space agency said it will allow astronomers to take a closer look at an asteroid.

The asteroid, 2001 FO32, is estimated to be about 3,000 feet in diameter and was discovered 20 years ago, NASA said.

“We know the 2001 FO32 orbital path around the Sun very precisely,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies. “There is no chance that the asteroid will get closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”

That’s about 5.25 times the distance from Earth to the Moon, but still close enough for 2001 FO32 to be classified as a “potentially dangerous asteroid.”

NASA said 2001 FO32 will pass about 77,000 miles per hour faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth.

“Currently, little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides a rare opportunity to learn a lot about this asteroid,” said Lance Benner, principal scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA said astronomers hope to get a better understanding of the asteroid’s size and a rough idea of ​​its composition by studying the light reflected off its surface.

“When sunlight hits the surface of an asteroid, minerals in the rock absorb some wavelengths while reflecting others,” NASA said. “By studying the spectrum of light reflected from the surface, astronomers can measure the chemical ‘fingerprints’ of minerals on the asteroid’s surface.”

Amateur astronomers in some parts of the world should be able to make their own observations.

“The asteroid will be brighter as it moves through the southern skies,” Chodas said.

“Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and in low northern latitudes should be able to see this asteroid using moderately sized telescopes with apertures of at least eight inches on the nights before closest approach, but they will probably need star charts to find it.”

NASA said that more than 95 percent of near-Earth asteroids the size of 2001 FO32 or larger have been cataloged and none of them have any chance of impacting our planet over the next century.

Small asteroid to safely shave on Earth Friday

© 2021 AFP

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